Euro-bound pedal pals push the pain barrier

Piles, blisters and rashes. Just some of the afflictions nine Irish rear ends will have to endure just to see a football match in Poland.

The nine brave souls are going to put some of the most delicate parts of their bodies through hell in order to cycle from Dublin to Gdansk in time to see Ireland play Spain in the European Championships on June 14.

The Pedal to Poland challenge, in aid of Arthritis Ireland, Renewable World, and Headstrong, left Dublin yesterday evening and will cycle through Britain, the Netherlands, and Germany before hitting Poland.

The team, of all ages and fitness levels, has been in training in the Wicklow mountains for the past few months for the 1,500km journey.

Self-confessed “old man” of the group and veteran of Irish soccer campaigns, Declan Arthur, 51, said the idea came together, as all crazy Irish ideas do, in a pub.

“The whole thing started off in a pub watching a Manchester United game,” he said.

“Matthew, who is coming along and who has arthritis, and I, started talking about the Euros and we said: ‘Why don’t we cycle there?’

“Next thing, we took another guy on as project manager and got the word out there online and in the media, and it went from there.”

Far from staying in luxury hotels at the end of their daily 100km-stretches in the saddle, Declan says the team must also watch their bottom line.

“We have packed our tents really and we are more than willing to slum it on the road.

“We were on the Pat Kenny Show and they had a caller saying they would put us up in Germany, but it depends on whether it’s near the route. We will take any assistance we can get.”

Considering his age, Declan intends to do much of the driving in the support van, but he said the guys were prepared for every eventuality on the road.

“Matthew is our cyclist. He was diagnosed with arthritis at 14 years old. He’s 37 now. He had to give up contact sport, but was encouraged to cycle and swim, so he’s our real cyclist.

“The lads have been hard at it up in the Dublin Mountains so they are fit and ready. The question isn’t really fitness, but more being able to do long successive days of 120km or 130km. Serious cyclists have told us the key is to look after your arse or it will be a tough slog.”

Luckily, an army medic is travelling with the group with “every ointment and cream” under the sun to deal with some tender rear ends.

It looks like being an eventful 15 days.

* Text 57802 to contribute €3 to Pedal to Poland or visit www.pedaltopoland.com


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